|About Willa Cather|
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|Cather Town Tour|
The Willa Cather Foundation is located in the beautifully restored 1885 Red Cloud Opera House in downtown Red Cloud. This historic building also houses a bookstore, an art gallery, state-of-the-art projection capabilities (often used to show free films), and a functioning performance stage. Please call for a full schedule of events, including book signings, readings, and a plethora of humanities and cultural programming. Three- and seven-building tours are available throughout the year, where visitors can see the childhood home of Willa Cather, in addition to other historic buildings related to her life and writing. (These buildings are owned and jointly maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society.) Tourists are encouraged to visit our 608-acre virgin Willa Cather Memorial Prairie just five miles south of Red Cloud near the Kansas border.
Summer Hours of Operation & Guided Tours Schedule (April 1 to September 30)
Winter Hours of Operation & Guided Tours Schedule (October 1 to March 31)
(Please call the Willa Cather Foundaiton office for our school and group rates at 866.731.7304)
This detailed guided tour includes:
Willa Cather's Childhood Home
The Childhood Home, the treasure of the restored buildings, contains many family artifacts including the family bible in which Cather changed her date of birth from 1873 to 1876. Grandma Boak's room is exactly as described in "Old Mrs. Harris." Upstairs, a "story within itself," is young Willa's (and Thea Kronborg's in The Song of the Lark) small attic bedroom, the one which she papered herself with the wallpaper she took as pay for working at Dr. Cook's Drugstore. The same rose covered wallpaper is there today. (Restored and managed by the Willa Cather Foundation and maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society.)
The Harling House
Built ca. 1878, the Miner house is one of the finest, large historic houses in Red Cloud. Although a more simplified, vernacular interpretation of the Italianate style, the house is the salient example of the style in Red Cloud. Willa Cather's first playmate in Red Cloud was Mary Miner. Cather became friends with all of the Miner children, but especially Carrie. She wrote to Carrie regularly throughout her life and her book My Antonia is dedicated "To Carrie and Irene Miner, In memory of affections old and true."
St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church
It was at the St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church that Annie Pavelka's (Antonia's) baby was baptized, and where she was later married. The building was erected in 1883 and used until 1903, when it was transformed into a residential home. Visitors will notice the "poor man's stained glass" windows and the lack of a bell in the bellfry. These are important indicators and reminders of the economic divisions in Red Cloud. The priest didn't live in Red Cloud, but traveled by train to give Mass. The train engineer would blow the whistle in a special way if the priest was aboard to let the parishioners know that Mass was about to begin. The building was dedicated and consecrated in 1970. (Restored and managed by the Willa Cather Foundation and maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society.)
Grace Episcopal Church
Grace Episcopal was the Cathers' church from 1922 on. Two of the very beautiful painted glass windows, manufactured in Munich, Germany, were purchased by Willa Cather in memory of her parents. The communion rail was imported from Spain and was given in memory of her brother Douglass. (Restored and managed by the Willa Cather Foundation and maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society.)
The Farmers' and Merchant's Bank Building
This building, built in 1889, was erected by Silas Garber, former Union Army Officer, the founder of Red Cloud (1871), and the fourth governor of Nebraska (1875-1879) who served two terms. Governor Garber and his wife were Cather's prototypes for Captain Forrester and his wife in A Lost Lady." Cather archival materials, like some of her letters, are located in the bank vaults. (Restored and managed by the Willa Cather Foundation and maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society.)
Depots in general played a significant role in Willa Cather's writings. The original two-story section of the depot, constructed in 1897, is the building Cather was familiar with during her last years in Red Cloud. Red Cloud was on the main line of the Burlington and Missouri between Kansas City and Denver. At one time eight passenger trains (and several grain and livestock trains) passed through town daily, making the Red Cloud Depot a busy and exciting place.
(Restored and managed by the Willa Cather Foundation and maintained by the Nebraska State Historical Society.)